From a grocery store to a college: The story of Pierce College

Pierce College has had multiple changes over its 50 years, but its goal has remained constant.

Jared Leingang, Online Reporter

Throughout its 50 years, Pierce College has been a staple in the education of students in Pierce County.

Pierce first opened in 1967 in an abandoned Albertson’s grocery store in Lakewood and was given the title Albertson’s U. The first graduation was June 7, 1968. Seven students graduated with associate degrees and 200 graduated from the college’s adult high school program.

As the school grew, it was eventually renamed Clover Park Community College. When a new Board of Trustees was put in place, the name was changed to Fort Steilacoom Community College.

As the Fort Steilacoom campus grew, the Board of Trustees rededicated the college as Pierce College.

As the Lakewood area grew, the focus turned to Puyallup and in 1987, 85 acres of land were purchased near South Hill.

In 1990, Gaspard Administration was the first building built on the Puyallup campus. It contained everything from the deli to offices and classrooms.

Chancellor Michele Johnson’s office in the ADM building today was the deli back then, Johnson said.

In 1996, the Brouillet Library/ Science Building was constructed to open up more space for classrooms, specifically in the science department.

During 2004, a major change took place at the Puyallup campus, Johnson said. The College Center was constructed, and expansion of the college began.

“There was no real place for students to hang out so this was a huge development and changed the nature of the campus,” Johnson said.

The CTR created an opportunity for clubs and students to socialize. Equipped with a cafeteria, bookstore, café and classrooms, the building became a popular place for students to gravitate toward.

As the college continued to grow, more facilities were needed to accommodate students and one of those needs was the Health Education Center.

At the Fort Steilacoom campus, students suggested the center.

At the time, the women’s basketball team would play its home games at Western State Hospital and students wanted a gymnasium on campus.

Johnson mentioned that the students’ thought of the fee charge to fund the center. The proposal was to remove the pool on the Fort Steilacoom campus and replace it with the fitness center.

At the Puyallup campus, students wanted the HEC as well but didn’t have the financial means. Students used the same concept as Fort Steilacoom and used the fees that are paid from using the gym to pay off the building in a form of a debt service. The classrooms in the HEC were state-funded, but everything else was student funded, and the HEC was built in 2008.

Looking toward the future, having a district presence at both campuses in sports is important to Johnson.

“The goal is to build a field in Puyallup for soccer and baseball to represent Pierce sports at both campuses,” Johnson said.

Following the investment of the HEC came the construction of the Arts and Allied Health building in 2010. It was constructed to fill the need for more classes and fulfill the desire for a performing center, recording studio and other theatrical aspects.

Although the child center at the Puyallup campus was paid for as part of the CTR, at the Fort Steilacoom campus that wasn’t the case.

Due to Puyallup being a newer campus, it had more flexibility from the state while Steilacoom didn’t. Steilacoom had to raise money to fund the project. The Pierce College Foundation, in 2004, raised $3.5 million for the creation of the center and it opened in 2007.

The foundation has also raised $1.5-2 million to finish the theatre and equipment in the AAH building at the Puyallup campus and the science dome at Fort Steilacoom.

As Pierce has evolved there’s been many events and stories that have come with it.

Johnson has been involved with Pierce since 1977 and mentioned the Nisqually earthquake as one of her most memorable experiences.

“I was at the Cascade building at the Fort Steilacoom campus in my office,” Johnson said. “When it hit, the glass in the windows stretched out and looked like bubbles.”

Johnson also cited the 1982 softball team winning the conference championship, and when Robert F. Kennedy Jr. visited the Puyallup campus to speak in the library as other memorable moments.

Even though Pierce has changed, the mission has remained constant; to have students be involved, to thrive and to reach their academic goals.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Jared Leingang

From a grocery store to a college: The story of Pierce College

by Jared Leingang time to read: 3 min